The Flesh and the Spirit in Paul, Provisionally

I spoke on this topic a month or two ago in our college’s chapel service, and a student expressed an interest in having a written version of my thoughts for reference purposes. It emerges from a series of encounters I’ve had with the early chapters of 1 Corinthians throughout 2019. Yet any regular readers of this blog will know that I am an Old Testament guy, not a New Testament specialist, so please take that into account. Moreover, all I can offer is my understanding of this dichotomy in Paul in its present state of progress — hence, ‘provisionally’.

When Huskies Go Off Course…What?

I often have a guiding illustration, keeping my audience and myself on track. For this talk, I was thinking about sled dogs. My grandmother on my Mum’s side had two samoyeds, woolly white things that looked as though they must have been dying in the summers in Belmont, New South Wales (Australia), though apparently they can take it reasonably well. They needed grooming practically every day, and so they are a great breed for those with a lot of time to kill. Nice dogs, all the same.

Those who encountered ‘CCM’ (contemporary Christian music) in some form a couple of decades back might remember the Newsboys song, “It’s all who you know”. The Newsboys, an Australian band originally, had a lyricist called Steve Taylor who had a bit of a knack with words, and I think he was responsible for this effort. One verse says,

For the want of a cough drop,

The musher’s throat went hoarse

For the want of direction

The huskies went off course

Then the sled got snowbound

It took some time to free’em

Now they’re on display

Inside the British Museum

It’s a version of the Butterfly Effect, I guess – lack of a cough drop altering history in an unforeseen way. Nevertheless, it allows me to talk about huskies going off course. I promise to come back to this.

The Problem of Paul’s Teaching on the Flesh

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:24–25).

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